Bill to require open meeting training for all local government employees
By Wiley Hayes and Times Staff Writer
Mar 15, 2015 | 3:00 AM
Legislation has been proposed in the General Assembly that will assist governing agencies which must abide by the state's open meetings law adhere to its often complicated standards.
Legislation has been proposed in the General Assembly that will assist governing agencies that must abide by the state's open meetings law in adhering to its often complicated standards.
Questions concerning the state's open meetings law are often raised by governing agencies and officials due to a lack of training, said Del. Warren Miller, R-District 9A, which includes parts of Carroll County.
House Bill 1251, which was introduced by Miller, is an amendment to an existing law, and would require every member, employee and official of a public body to undergo open meetings law training within 30 days of being hired.
The bill has been assigned to the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, which reviews House bills that have been submitted past the Feb. 12 deadline and decides whether to refer them to the appropriate committee for consideration.
The existing law only requires public bodies to designate at least one person to undergo such training.
This bill has less to do with quelling violations and more to do with increasing the public's accessibility to these government agencies, Miller said.
"I don't think any public official tries to meet a quorum in a back room, but [the bill] raises awareness about public access and transparency," Miller said.
The bill is aimed at local jurisdictions, he said, but he sees no reason why the bill or something similar shouldn't be adhered to by the General Assembly.
"We've had some discussions in Annapolis, and I can't tell you about the level of confusion about open meetings [law] with the legislative body," Miller said. "When you are talking about 144 people, it becomes a little confusing; some interesting questions have come up."
The bill also aims to assist the media, he said, because it allows them to do their job better to let the public know what's going on.
Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said he is in full support of the bill. Every elected official should be required to take this training because much of the open meetings law is not "intuitive or self-evident," he said.
"I see things go wrong that are a direct result of not having open meetings training," Rothschild said. "I believe in open government and I believe [training] is necessary."
He said that during his time on the Carroll County Board of Commissioners, several questions have risen concerning how open meetings law applies to quasi-government acts — such as resolutions — and under what conditions advisory boards are required to follow the law.
"There are a lot of intricate details, and the only way to become fully informed is to receive proper training from a good instructor," Rothschild said.
Del. Barrie Ciliberti, R-District 4, of Frederick and Carroll counties, said the fact that the bill is still in the rules committee leaves a "pretty slim" chance of it being reviewed by the appropriate committee, much less passed.